Prior to World War II, geraniums were produced primarily as a crop to
follow regular-season chrysanthemums in our northern greenhouses.
Each grower would carry over most of his own stock from year
to year, and only occasionally buy, borrow or trade a few new
and different cultivars from other local houses and florist shops.
As greenhouse operators began to use more efficient heating and cooling
devices, the interest and increased production of geraniums to
the consumer has not abated, and in fact is the major ornamental
crop produced throughout the world.
Of all the ornamental flowering or zonal leafed plants, the geranium
is most preferred by the home grower. Geranium is the
common name that is used to describe the plants in the family
geraniaceae. The root word geranion, is greek from
geranos a crane, referring to the beak-like fruits.
Our own native Alberta woodland geranium is perennial, and known as the cranesbill. To
identify the popular greenhouse variety of the pelargonium, we
cut through the botanics, and simply call them by the most recognized
name as: geraniums, or the acceptable 'hortorium'. Other well
known sub species of the pelargonium are the scented and multi-colored
leaves, like the pansy and Martha Washington 'pellars'.
Propagation of geraniums by vegetative cuttings will insure an exact copy
of the parent plant. Healthy cuttings and vigorous rooting depends
upon the health and vitality of the stock plant.
Before taking your cuttings, the stock plant should be watered to leech out
impurities, using enough water to begin running almost clear
from the pot drain holes. Now water with a triple 20 fertilizer
at the rate of that recommended for mature plants. Make sure
no pests or disease are showing on the plant stems or at the
base of the growth, just above the soil line.
Preparation and observation are critical to good growing techniques.
Success in rooting geranium cuttings in a timely manner is dependant upon a bottom
heat source not exceeding temps of 75-80 degrees F (20-25 degrees
Horticultural heating mats are available from many sources, and if you require
a much larger base, heat cables can be ordered from some local
horticultural outlets, and come in varying lengths, from 16 to
The media used
often by growers to root vegetative cuttings is perlite.
A medium grind of the volcanic rock will allow air to the base
of the cuttings and evaporate moisture slowly, while holding
the all-important bottom heat at the target area of the root
will fill cells with perlite and 'stick' the plant stems to individualize
each cutting. Another popular method, is to fill flats with the
perlite and stick the cuttings in rows to a maximum of 40 stems
in a 11 1/2" X 22" greenhouse flat.
Now let's see how it's done!
Figure 1: Stock plant
held over winter in its combination outdoor patio planter pot.
Figure 2: Clear cutting
is not the practical method of renewing your stock plant to rejuvenation.
Balance the selection of cuttings to leave smaller growth that
will 'fill out' and continue to a possible second set of later
Figure 3: Choose a healthy
solid cutting, then, with a sharp knife or pruning clipper, cut
the growth, leaving a 2-3" stump complete with a few leaves
to aid more new growth.
Figure 4: The perfect
cutting specimen: well grown, with capable potential of a rooted
cutting in four weeks.
Figure 5: Knowing what
to cut off the stem of your cutting is important to its rooting
ability. Knowing the botanic name of these 'bits' increases your
botanic knowledge, as well as a topic of really boring facts
you can recite to your friends.
Figure 6: You can see
the various parts of the cutting excised from the stem, leaving
the cutting ready to be dipped into the rooting hormone powder.
Figure 7: A single pot
ready with wetted perlite, and the opening to secure your cutting
to a depth of 2-3".
Figure 8: Pinching,
or firming the perlite around the cutting base is very important,
after 'sticking'. The procedure guarantees the cutting will stand
straight, and not lean or fall over when being misted with the
hand pump container. Warm/bright conditions, with periodic misting
during the day will enable the cutting to produce a root system,
ready for re-potting or transplanting. See figure 9.
Figure 9: A fine speciman.
No fertilizer will be necessary during the rooting process, but
after potting on into soilless mix, you can reward the plant
with a tonic of 20-20-20.
A Brief Summary for Future Geranium Cuttings:
1. Grow geraniums on in bright natural
light and cool day/night temperatures of +8 to +10 C or 45-55
2. Water only when dry
3. Fertilize after the 5th watering with 20-20-20
4. Clean any dry or yellowing leaves
5. If the plant is compact, and the
growth is short with healthy leaves, place the plant(s) below
the light source, so the stems will reach for the light, giving
you better cutting stem lengths
6. Check for disease and bugs, control
7. Early cuttings can be struck mid February to mid March
Natures Packaging of a Rooting Aid
product that hastens rooting on early cuttings of geraniums/coleus/fuchsias:
Auxin is a naturally occurring chemical, that when released
by environmental conditions in the early spring, aids root growth.
The auxin is concentrated in the new buds on trees and shrubs
, and when diluted by rain or heavy dew, even late snowfall,
the auxin will release the chemical to be taken in by the tree
or shrub through the plants system, and transfer it to the root
Of all our local growing trees or shrubs,
the poplar and willow have the highest concentration
of auxin at the ends of the branches. If you are rooting cuttings
in water, a stem cut from either the poplar or willow, and added
to a separate container of water
In more normal situations, cuttings are
rooted in perlite, peat moss and sand, or vermiculite. Gather
the willow end shoots as hardwood cuttings (poplar has less auxin)
and stand them in a jar of tap water for a day or so. As a very
general or optimum concentration of auxins is difficult to measure,
use 12 stems in a quart of tepid water. Use your auxin to water
the leaves of cuttings, after sticking in the rooting mix.
NB: Very soft tissued cuttings of coleus,
and end cuttings of fuchsias or geraniums, may not form a protective
film on the cut end, so dipping the ends in the 'auxinated' water
will work fine. Heavier cuttings of older wood from geraniums
or pellargoniums and most houseplants can be misted or sprayed
with the auxin water as they settle in. Misting with auxin is
not a replacement for intermittent misting, as the cutting begins
to callous and produce root. Two or three times of auxin water
during the first week of your cutting in the root media, and
on bottom heat should be enough to generate a uniformity of rooting.
Once rooting begins, water your cutting
with the willow water, and save enough for their first drink
after potting the cuttings.
NB: Once buds show to develop on the willow,
the auxin has been used, and will not be in a concentrate useful
for your rooting stock. Therefore, take cuttings in Jan/Feb,
and store in ziploc bags in the freezer for early spring use
on later cuttings.